In 2018, the city councils in both Austin and San Antonio passed ordinances to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. The ordinances have faced legal challenges, including a ruling in November 2018 that the Austin law is unconstitutional due to preemption by the Texas Minimum Wage Act. Neither ordinance has taken effect to date. Now the state senate has taken up the matter.
The acronym SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” A SLAPP lawsuit seeks to chill, dissuade, or punish a party’s exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
The issue of whether workers who utilize online digital platforms to obtain business and deliver services to third parties are employees or independent contractors has already been subject to much debate and litigation. In the growing gig economy, questions surrounding these issues can create uncertainty for both businesses and gig workers.
Texas law allows for the enforcement of covenants not to compete that impose reasonable restrictions on competition.
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.
On November 16, 2018, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, entered a temporary injunction blocking the implementation of the paid sick leave ordinance that the Austin City Council passed in February 2018.
On August 16, 2018, the San Antonio City Council voted 9 to 2 to adopt a paid leave ordinance which will require all employers in San Antonio to provide paid leave to their employees. The ordinance requires employers to provide paid leave to be used for specified reasons for employees’ and their family members’ health-related issues.
Courts have ruled that employees who work with clients with diminished capacity present different challenges when establishing whether the nonemployee’s alleged harassment affected the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment. But where is the line on what can constitute actionable harassment when the alleged harasser is a nonemployee with diminished capacity?
The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine can provide religious institutions with protection from employment-related lawsuits. Based upon the religious freedom amendments contained in the U.S. and Texas constitutions, this doctrine generally bars courts from adjudicating disputes related to the governance and operations of religious institutions.
In Wolf v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc., No. 4:16-CV-01560 (March 13, 2018), United States District Judge Alfred H. Bennett of the Southern District of Texas granted Lowe’s motion for summary judgment on a former sales employee’s claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate, as well as her claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for retaliation.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s grant of summary judgment under the Louisiana whistleblower law, Louisiana Revised Statutes section 23:967, in favor of an employer that transferred an employee to a less desirable location after revealing concerns about her employer’s handling of a diabetic student.
In the early hours of February 16, 2018, the Austin City Council passed a new ordinance on earned sick time that affects employers in Austin, Texas. The ordinance will not take effect until October 1, 2018, and is likely to be challenged in court almost immediately. Nevertheless, local employers should be aware of the basic requirements of the law so that they can prepare for the possibility of enforcement this fall. Likewise, employers in other cities should keep informed on this issue as sick leave laws are becoming more prevalent across the country.
In Delaronde v. Legend Classic Homes, Ltd., No. 17-20027 (January 18, 2018), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s denial of an employer’s post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that the jury had been presented with sufficient evidence to conclude that sex discrimination had motivated the transfer of a female sales associate for a Houston-area home builder from a successful community where she had achieved more than $3 million in sales to a very challenging community where the home prices were the lowest of any of the builder’s properties.
As the new year quickly approaches, it is a good time to review your company’s handbook and policies. One important issue to look for is whether your arbitration agreement is part of the handbook.
On August 31, 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Dallas filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, against Denton County, Texas, alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act with regard to Denton’s compensation of two physicians in the county health department.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of a Title VII retaliation claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim where the plaintiff premised her retaliation claim on her earlier filing of an internal complaint of harassment based on a single allegedly offensive text message.
If weather reports are accurate, by the time it makes landfall, Hurricane Harvey stands to be the first major storm to hit the United States in more than 10 years. Harvey, which as of this writing is a category three storm in the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to make landfall on Texas’s central coast late on Friday, August 25, 2017, or Saturday, August 26, 2017.
Texas courts interpreting Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code generally attempt to interpret it consistently with federal anti-discrimination laws and frequently look to federal court decisions for guidance. However, differences do exist between Texas and federal anti-discrimination laws. One recent case explored the differences between Chapter 21 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to claims for release of confidential health information.
On March 15, 2017, in Moss v. Harris County Constable Precinct One, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that an employer is not required to accommodate an employee who is requesting indefinite leave as a reasonable accommodation. Robert Moss, who was a deputy with Harris County Constable Precinct One for 16 years, claimed he had been wrongfully discharged in 2013 while on leave following back surgery. Moss claimed his discharge was a result of both his disability and his political speech against then-candidate for constable Alan Rosen.
The Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth District recently reversed and remanded a judgment in favor of an employer on an employee’s claim of retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a change in the employer’s stated overtime policy, which was implemented after the employee filed an overtime lawsuit against the employer and applied only to that specific employee, constituted a materially adverse employment action.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, recently found that punitive and compensatory damages are not available for retaliation claims brought under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The ADEA already provides for liquidated damages equal to the amount of lost pay and benefits for “willful” age discrimination. The standard for finding a willful violation to award liquidated damages is quite low, resulting in the routine award of what is, in effect, double damages in ADEA cases.
Texas law permits businesses to utilize noncompetition agreements to protect their legitimate business interests in certain circumstances. Companies, attorneys, and the courts generally focus on the consideration that must be exchanged in order for the parties to create a legal, enforceable noncompetition agreement. However, since courts analyze noncompetition agreements under standard contract interpretation principles, the language beyond the exchange of consideration can also be critical to the enforceability of a noncompetition agreement. A recent case from the Court of Appeals of Texas in Texarkana highlights this importance.
Same-sex couples can legally marry, but are they legally entitled to benefits? The Supreme Court of Texas will decide this issue after hearing oral arguments in March of 2017 in Pidgeon v. Turner.
Following the growing trend of states enacting laws that address pay equity in the workplace, Texas State Representative Eric Johnson introduced House Bill 290 in the Texas legislature, seeking to amend the Texas Labor Code to prohibit sex discrimination in compensation.
In Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, L.L.C. (No. 15-10932, December 19, 2016), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals joined the Sixth and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals in holding that an employee may recover for emotional distress damages in a retaliation claim asserted under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Taking its cue from other, larger cities, San Marcos, Texas, recently voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour for businesses applying for tax breaks and others incentives to build or expand in the city. In addition to the higher wage, businesses must also offer all employees and their dependents benefits equal to those offered to full-time employees.
Effective January 1, 2017, 29 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum wage rates that are above the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. The District of Columbia will continue to have, as it did last year, one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country at $11.50 per hour until July 1, 2017, and $12.50 per hour after that date. With respect to state minimum wages, Massachusetts and Washington will have the highest minimum wages at $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2017, with California close behind at $10.50 per hour (for employers with 26 or more employees), effective January 1, 2017, and Connecticut following at $10.10 per hour, effective January 1, 2017.
In a case of first impression, Texas’s Second Court of Appeals recently examined the issue of whether an employee who is taking leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may obtain unemployment benefits under the Texas Labor Code.
The legal showdown between the State of Texas and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the agency’s background check guidance took another turn on September 23, 2016, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order withdrawing its previous June opinion and remanding the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The June 2016 opinion had allowed Texas to proceed with its lawsuit against the EEOC. This order comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., 136 S.Ct. 1807 (2016), which examined when a federal agency’s decisions can be challenged in court.
On August 8, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized a new public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine, allowing a former employee to sue his employer for terminating his employment for legally storing a gun in his car on company property in a publicly-accessible parking area.